People say that you’re not supposed to judge a book by a cover. Well, don’t tell those people, but I chose to read “Reincarnation Blues” solely because it had a funky neon cover. I honestly didn’t know anything about the book except that the cover artwork was colorful and fun.
Little did I know, this book’s heart was also colorful and fun.
First, a little bit of background on the book. I’ll try to keep it succinct and spoiler free. Milo is the oldest living soul in the universe. Seriously. He’s lived just under 10,000 lives, each new reincarnation a chance to “get it right” before he can finally move on to the true afterlife. Milo’s come close to reaching perfection, but something always holds him back. It miiiiight just be his lover, Suzie (aka Death herself), who he reunites with in purgatory after each unsuccessful life. Unfortunately, If he can’t reach perfection in his 10,000 chances, his soul will be obliterated into nothingness… and he’s only got a few lives left.
At its heart, “Reincarnation Blues” is a love story. Milo and Suzie are the most star-crossed of lovers. This is an overused setup that I usually struggle with as a reader, but Milo and Suzie are such likable characters that I immediately got sucked into their romance and rooted for them every step of the way. Strong characterization is honestly where this book shines. Poore writes Milo, in particular, as fallible and sarcastic. But at his core, Milo means well – he’s human, and his failures stem, more oft than not, from misguided attempts to do good. He isn’t a perfect golden boy but he’s nowhere near irredeemable, even through some colossal mistakes.
And that’s what makes this book and it’s story structure work so well. “Reincarnation Blues” read a lot like a string of short stories – each new chapter is a self-contained description of a new life. Some of these lives are steeped in futuristic science fiction, while others go back in time to historical societies. Poore runs through so many unique genres and settings, providing a smattering of experiences, yet manages to unify them with one single factor: Milo.
One of the reasons I tend to stay away from short stories is that it takes some time for me to feel connected to the characters. I’m a very character-driven reader – without characters that have plausible motives and mentalities, I often feel adrift in a work. With short stories, the tale is usually finished before I can truly connect. Having a recurring character that I care about cut that whole scenario out and allowed me to fully invest in each new story from the start.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons that I enjoyed “Reincarnation Blues.” Poore is an extremely witty writer and while he’s light-hearted, he’s also not afraid to tackle some heavy subjects. It’s an incredibly philosophical book but is well-balanced enough so as not to feel pompous or preachy. I also felt like Poore navigated the tricky subject of the afterlife very well. He doesn’t really discount or bash any religion, thus allowing me to feel comfortable in recommending the novel to my friends.
My only critique is honestly the ending. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that the last few chapters felt a bit rushed – I just wish he had fleshed out the finale a little bit more, because these characters deserved a more elaborate send-off.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. It’s not very often that I rate a book with 5 enthusiastic stars on Goodreads, but “Reincarnation Blues” far and away blew my expectations out of the water.